Jay-Z In Concert - Arrivals

Kentucky/Maryland preview: The Barclays Center gets a college fix

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The Nets moved to Brooklyn, helped in part by minority owner Jay-Z, and got a cozy new home in The Barclays Center. Jay-Z is close with Kentucky coach John Calipari, so it only makes sense that Cal’s Wildcats make their season debut in the building, right?

The defending national champions open their title defense against Maryland and coach Mark Turgeon who is looking forward to a much better season than their 17-15 mark last year. The Terrapins lost leading scorer Terrell Stoglin, but get back talented project Alex Len (6.o ppg, 5.4 rpg last year) and guard Nick Faust (8.9 ppg, 2.1 apg). Pe’Shon Howard (6.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg) can also stuff a stat sheet. He also has the luxury of a great recruiting class, led by Shaquille Cleare. With Stoglin on to the NBA, it’ll all come down to who shows themselves as the leaders on the court for this team.

Kentucky had the same kind of NBA-bound turnover they’ve had every season under Calipari, having to replace their top six players, including five underclassmen that went in the first round of the NBA Draft. And they replace them with another top-flight recruiting class. Nerlens Noel makes his long-awaited debut, as does Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, along with the two new transfers Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays. All those players will be the team’s top six, followed  by the only returning impact player off last season’s team, Kyle Wiltjer. It’s going to be the first game of another season of team’s trying to contain a bunch of athletes in the dribble-drive motion offense.

Unlike the first two previews, in a stunning turn of events, this game will be played inside. So no, weather won’t be a factor. Expect a lot of energy early and often, though I’d expect the highlighted matchup a lot of people will be seeing will be Noel against Len. Noel, who looks totally capable of handling himself  down low, anyway, will be thrown to the wolves early, taking on a 7-footer that knows his way around the block.

If Maryland can contain the slashing ability of Goodwin and Poythress and make Kentucky rely on outside shooting, which hasn’t exactly been a consistent strong-suit of a Calipari-coached Wildcat team, they might have a shot. If Kentucky is able to get out and run early, goodnight, Maryland.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.